More than 500 contractors, wholesalers and manufacturers reps got a first look at Viessmann's new Vitotec line last month at the German manufacturer's Canadian headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario.

The new line of boilers and water heaters includes models for basement, wall-mount and even attic installations and can be powered by gas, oil or solar energy. Viessmann introduced Vitotec at last year's ISH Trade Fair for the European market. The company will begin introducing models this summer for North America, with the entire line phased in by next year.

Easily the most noticeable difference about the Vitoctec line is the absence of the well-known orange color that has been a mainstay for Viessmann equipment for many years. Instead, the equipment comes in a platinum color (or more precisely, "Vitosilver") with "Vitorange" as an accent color.

Beyond cosmetic appeal, however, Viessmann used a "building block" approach in constructing the line. This strategy allows different functional modules to fit on one base chassis in order to build different models, similar to how auto manufacturers construct different cars with various options and price points. According to the company, the construction allows the use of many identical parts, cuts installation time by 50 percent and reduces the number of universal spare parts.

"This will help contractors sell additional options and features, and better match the needs of each individual customer," says Kenneth Webster, Viessmann's marketing manager.

To symbolize this modular approach, all the models share the same "Vito" prefix and are differentiated by numbers such as 100, 200 or 300. All the boilers, burners, control and hot water tanks are design-matched. A boiler, for example, can be installed atop a hot water storage tank without any supporting rails or set screws.

The line also incorporates a new generation of "thinking" controls called Vitotronic. The new controls are also designed on the building block principle. Four modules, two base chassis with motherboards and safety controls, and two operating units (either fixed or slide-in) make up the complete control program.